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By Doug Deane


March 8, 2011 (San Diego’s East County) -- The following local, state and national education news items are excerpted from a very informative e-newsletter published by Doug Deane, chair of the Business Education Committee at the San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce.

 Our picks for Deane’s top education stories from the latest issue include:


• Help needed—Career Awareness Day booth presenters & sponsors
• Layoffs coming to La Mesa Schools
• The budget threat to community colleges and jobs
• Three local residents join East County board overseeing school bonds
• Is teaching making our teachers sick?
• GUHSD Superintendent Swensen’s newsletter
• Save great teachers campaign
• For kids, self control factors into future success
• Gifted students and ‘mind-numbing’ schools
• How to talk to kids about violence
• What would Honest Abe Lincoln say?
• “Factoring Fast Food” and other lesson plans for March
• Grade the parents?
• School makes stride in improving attendance
• Music takes Valhalla student to New York for show
• Legislature spotlights bullying in schools
• Teacher layoff plans in Los Angeles pose broad implications
• Bipartisan group backs common school curriculum
• Nonprofit warns schools on seniority-based layoffs
• Community colleges: Times of crisis and opportunity?
• Cajon Valley schools preparing for deep cuts
• School music, arts programs on chopping block
• San Diego to host school charter conference
• Teacher pensions a looming crisis
• Fix district budget, don’t seek rescues
• Deaths at Santana – and a rebirth
• Don’t hamstring our teachers



Help Needed – Career Awareness Day Booth Presenters & Sponsors

Career Awareness Day is the single largest education-related event that the Chamber conducts, involving approximately 1,500 Cajon Valley Union School District 8th graders and over 60 businesses. The date is Monday, April 4th, and the location will be on the plaza in front of the Communication Arts Building at Cuyamaca College. Career Awareness Day is an event that exposes 8th graders to businesses and industries in our area, in order to get them to start thinking about their career path.

The San Diego East County Chamber needs businesses to act as booth presenters, and to answer questions from the 8th graders regarding opportunities in their industry, education and skill requirements, etc. Sponsors are also greatly needed to offset costs of transportation for students, food and facility costs. Please contact Judy Dreis at the Chamber if you’re interested in being involved. Her e-mail address is


Layoffs coming to La Mesa schools

Up to 80 employees — including as many as 65 teachers and counselors — in the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District could be laid off next year to help the East County education system close a projected $9 million budget gap.

The number represents about 5 percent of the district’s 1,600-member workforce.

The school board on Tuesday approved a plan that includes reductions in custodial, maintenance, gardening and more.
“No one wants to do any of this at all,” Superintendent Brian Marshall said.


The budget threat to community colleges – and jobs

In the 18th century, the American statesman Benjamin Franklin once said, “The only thing more expensive than education is ignorance.” In the 21st century, this observation is especially pertinent as more and more jobs require some level of college study. The high school diploma is no longer the gateway to gainful employment.

In well-paying fields from nursing to radiologic technology to engineering to a host of professions, successful job applicants must have an associate degree, a community college certificate or a baccalaureate degree. The community college is a key element in this equation. California’s 112 community colleges educate more than 1.4 million students each semester in programs leading to university transfer, careers and the improvement of on-the-job skills.

Read more by clicking on

Three local residents join East County board overseeing school bonds

A retired Marine, a holistic health school director and a UCSD hazardous materials specialist have been selected to serve on the citizens group that oversees the Grossmont Union High School District’s bond construction program.

Read more by clicking on



Is teaching making our teachers sick?

The personal cost of teaching may be becoming too high. In my 10 years as a teacher of teachers, more and more of my students are reporting headaches, sleepless nights, irritated stomachs, chronic illness and even cancer. As someone who cares about children, and sees the necessity of having healthy teachers to support them, I can’t help but feel compelled to understand why teachers are getting sick.

Here are the reasons I have identified thus far.



Leader of Teachers’ Union Urges Dismissal Overhaul

Responding to criticism that tenure gives even poor teachers a job for life, Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, announced a plan Thursday to overhaul how teachers are evaluated and dismissed.

It would give tenured teachers who are rated unsatisfactory by their principals a maximum of one school year to improve. If they did not, they could be fired within 100 days.


GUHSD Superintendent Swenson’s Newsletter

There’s a link below to the latest edition of Superintendent Swenson's Newsline.

You can check it out by clicking on:

Save Great Teachers Campaign

We recently received this letter from Michelle Rhee, founder of

In school, having a great teacher is the single most important factor in determining a student's success. Giving America's kids the best education in the world is only possible with the best teachers in the world.

States are being forced to make major cuts in education, with 45 states and the District of Columbia predicting huge budget shortfalls totaling $125 billion. And with these cuts our nation is at risk of losing some of our brightest, most effective teachers.

Right now in schools across the country, the last teacher hired has to be the first teacher fired, regardless of how good they are. A teacher's performance plays no role in who stays and who goes. This policy, based on seniority rather than effectiveness, is referred to as LIFO (Last In, First Out) -- and it is crippling our schools.

That's why we've launched the Save Great Teachers Campaign. Watch our video to learn more and pledge to get involved now:

We can't afford to pull highly effective teachers out of America's classrooms. This is just the beginning of a very important campaign. In the next few weeks, we will ask you to take specific actions to engage with your legislators. We need your help to save great teachers.

For Kids, Self-Control Factors Into Future Success

Self-control keeps us from eating a whole bag of chips or from running up the credit card. A new study says that self-control makes the difference between getting a good job or going to jail — and we learn it in preschool.

"Children who had the greatest self-control in primary school and preschool ages were most likely to have fewer health problems when they reached their 30s," says Terrie Moffitt, a professor of psychology at Duke University and King's College London.

Moffitt and a team of researchers studied a group of 1,000 people born in New Zealand in 1972 and 1973, tracking them from birth to age 32. The new study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the best evidence yet on the payoff for learning self-discipline early on.

Check this very interesting story out at


Gifted students and ‘mind-numbing’ schools

The subject of GATE is near and dear to our Committee’s heart, and we found this U-T editorial to be right on point:

Lawmakers have returned to Sacramento and Washington, D.C., to confront a host of looming issues. From continued revenue challenges as a result of the economic recession to pension reform and water supplies, the list is long and complex.

The temptation during times like these is to focus exclusively on the crisis of the day while letting all issues not seen as critical fester.

To the detriment of our students, education policy often falls into the “address later” pile, with education of gifted children at the absolute bottom.



How to talk to kids about violence

With the recent shooting in Arizona, unfolding chaos in Egypt, and other violent events all over the news, many of us find ourselves having to talk to our children about these issues. Ideally, we’d like to shield younger children from exposure to violence in the news, but that doesn’t always work. So what’s a parent or teacher to do?

There is no “one size fits all” answer here. Factors to consider include the age of the child, what he or she has already been exposed to, and what his or her concerns are. Be careful not to give children more information than they can process. Children may not comprehend the entirety of the event, and providing additional information may actually increase the anxiety.

Read more from this Josephson Institute article at

What would Honest Abe Lincoln say?

What would Honest Abe Lincoln say about the values of today’s American youth? In our survey of more than 40,000 high school students, the gap between what students believe and their actions does not bode well for future generations.

This report comes on the heels of our report issued in October of 2010 on bullying in American high schools.

Survey highlights: while 89 percent of students believe that being a good person is more important than being rich, almost one in three boys and one in four girls admitted stealing from a store within the past year. Moreover, 21 percent admitted they stole something from a parent or other relative, and 18 percent admitted stealing from a friend.

This topic from the Josephson Institute dovetails extremely well with our Ethics in Business program content. You can read more at


“Factoring Fast Food” and other lesson plans for March

March is National Nutrition Month, so we’ve put together a lesson plan that will teach teens to take responsibility for their eating habits. In this lesson, teens examine the fast food they eat, consider its nutritional value (or lack thereof), and learn how to make healthier choices in the future.


Grade the parents?

Should teachers be able to grade the parents of their students?

Florida state rep. Kelli Stargel (R) thinks so. She’s working on a bill that would give elementary school teachers that power.

“We have student accountability, we have teacher accountability, and we have administration accountability,” Stargel told CNN in January. “This was the missing link, which was, look at the parent and making sure the parents are held accountable.”

Read more from this interesting article at

School makes strides in improving attendance

At San Diego Unified’s School of Communication, every Monday morning is a chance for its eight-member attendance team to figure out how to get more students in the seats.

The group, headed by Principal Anisha Dalal, sits around a table armed with spreadsheets that list student names, how many days they’ve missed class, when they’ve been late, what administrators have done to keep them on campus and what their next steps might be.

“It’s a tough way to start a Monday,” said Rebecca Phillpott, the district’s dropout prevention program manager. “But it’s absolutely vital.”
And it’s effective.


Music takes Valhalla student to New York for show

A musician would have to be a bit better than good to get a nomination for an audition to the American High School Honors Performance Series at Carnegie Hall in New York. Carly Hines, a junior at Valhalla High School in El Cajon, was surprised by the nomination and a bit nervous about the program, at first.


More College Graduates Take Public Service Jobs

If Alison Sadock had finished college before the financial crisis, she probably would have done something corporate. Maybe a job in retail, or finance, or brand management at a big company — the kind of work her oldest sister, who graduated in the economically effervescent year of 2005, does at PepsiCo.

“You know, a normal job,” Ms. Sadock says.

But she graduated in a deep recession in the spring of 2009 when jobs were scarce. Instead of the merchandising career she had imagined, she landed in public service, working on behalf of America’s sickest children.

Ms. Sadock is part of a cohort of young college graduates who ended up doing good because the economy did them wrong.

Read more about this interesting trend at

For Young, Sex Falls in Survey

Fewer teenagers and young adults are having sex, a government survey shows.

The study, released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is based on interviews with about 5,300 young people, ages 15 to 24. It shows that the proportion in that age group who said they had never had oral, vaginal or anal sex rose in the past decade to about 28 percent, from 22 percent.



Clashes Pit Parents vs. Gay-Friendly Curriculums in Schools

After a lesbian student at Jesse Bethel High School in Vallejo joined with the American Civil Liberties Union in 2008 to accuse the local school district of discrimination, district officials agreed as part of a settlement to show films and assign homework depicting same-sex families, beginning in elementary school.

But one night last November, more than a dozen parents, rallied by community religious leaders, attacked the school board, asserting that their rights were being violated because they had no control over whether their children received such lessons.



Legislature Spotlights Bullying in Schools

The scariest part of the school day for one student in the Austin Independent School District is before classes begin. For the female-to-male transgender 16-year-old, the “nerve-racking” minutes he spends trying to find his friends at school each morning is when bullies are most likely to strike.



Teacher Layoff Plans in Los Angeles Pose Broad Implications

Last year, when the school district here handed out thousands of layoff notices, Samuel Gompers Middle School in South Central stood to lose half of its roughly 150 teachers. Now, with the district planning to lay off as many as 4,500 teachers under what school leaders call a doomsday budget, the school could have been even worse off.

But under a court ruling, not a single teacher at the school would be let go. Instead, Gompers and 44 other schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District would be exempt from any layoffs at all.
The ruling, which ratified a settlement agreed to by plaintiffs and the school district, is being appealed by the teachers’ union. And even as it plays out in a state where schools are facing the prospect of devastating layoffs, it could have implications for districts across the country facing similar cuts. The lawsuit has the support of, among others, Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa, who once worked for the teachers’ union here.



Bipartisan Group Backs Common School Curriculum

A bipartisan group of educators and business and labor leaders plan to announce on Monday their support for a common curriculum that states could adopt for public schools across the nation.


Nonprofit warns schools on seniority-based layoffs

The threat of layoffs looming throughout the San Diego Unified School District has put teachers on edge. But if the board of education votes next week to issue some 900 pink slips, some of the neediest campuses could be hit harder than others.

At Mann Middle School in City Heights, for example, more than 26 percent of teachers have less than two years experience — making them vulnerable to seniority-based layoffs.

The Public Counsel Law Center has asked San Diego Unified to avoid laying off its newest teachers to preserve the stability of schools that serve needy students.


Community colleges: Times of crisis and opportunity?

The topic was serious, but the mood was light.

“Never waste a good crisis,” was the counsel Francisco Rodriguez, president and superintendent of MiraCosta College, shared with about 150 national and international colleagues Monday.

The remark drew appreciative, if slightly anxious, laughter from the audience in a packed Hilton San Diego Bayfront meeting room.

Rodriguez was joined on a midday panel by Constance Carroll, chancellor of the San Diego Community College District, and Cindy Miles, chancellor of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District.



Cajon Valley schools preparing for deep cuts

At least 60 Cajon Valley Union School District teachers could lose their jobs next year. School field trips could be canceled. Libraries might be cut again.

The board of trustees will weigh these and other proposed cuts at a March 8 meeting in El Cajon.



School music, arts programs on chopping block

This year, there are dozens of San Diego Unified elementary schools that devote about an hour each week to teaching students the basics of musical instruments.

Next year, there might only be one.


San Diego to host school charter conference

Charter school educators and advocates from around California will descend on San Diego this week for a statewide conference dedicated to the growing arena of independently run public campuses.

The California Charter Schools Conference opens in San Diego on Tuesday, 18 years after it held its first meeting here. This time, the host city’s San Diego Unified School District will receive an award from the organization as the state’s top charter authorizer.



Teacher pension costs a looming crisis

Gov. Jerry Brown’s recent decision to revoke two of his predecessor’s appointees to the board of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System is understandable. The governor wants his appointees influencing CalSTRS, not Arnold Schwarzenegger’s.

Nonetheless, given that one of the revoked appointees, Stanford researcher Cameron Percy, is a leading skeptic of pension financing policies, we worry that Brown’s abrupt move may have been influenced by a desire to maintain the pension status quo.



Fix district budget, don’t seek rescues

The task facing the San Diego Unified School District – cutting $120 million out of a $1.2 billion 2011-12 budget – is daunting. Unless state voters approve a continuation of 2009’s temporary tax hikes in a special election that Gov. Jerry Brown hopes to hold in June, the district appears likely to have to lay off more than 900 workers, or 6 percent of its work force.



Deaths at Santana High – and a rebirth

Santana High School has come a long way since that horrible March 5 of 10 years ago.

That day, a student with a troubled past and a victim of bullying brought a gun to the East County campus and opened fire from the boys’ bathroom, killing two students and wounding 13 more. He eventually pleaded guilty and is serving a sentence of 50 years to life.

Ten years, and those associated with the school and the Grossmont Union district itself have long since passed through the five stages of grieving. They have changed for the better.



Don’t hamstring our teachers

Some news reports state that the education of today’s children in America is behind many countries in the world. Many are quick to blame teachers. Never mind that America educates all children, not just top achievers. And never mind that a government that cannot even manage itself seems to think it knows what is best in educating America’s youth and has become involved.



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